Review

The Face of a Naked Lady: An Omaha Family Mystery

by Michael Rips



"Nic Rips was a man his son had always known as a conservative
Midwesterner, dedicated, affable, bland to the point of
invisibility. Upon his father's death, however, Michael Rips
returned to his Omaha family home to discover a hidden portfolio of
paintings --- all done by his father, all of a naked black
woman.

So begins Rips' second work of memoir, part detective story, part
disquisition on the mysteries of identity, part journey into an
America readers will scarcely recognize."

THE FACE OF A NAKED LADY starts off as a typical "this is a story
about my mother, father, sister, brother." However, you soon get
the feeling that this is not your average, run-of-the-mill story,
and it certainly is not about an average, run-of-the-mill
man.

The book recounts the story of Michael's father, Nic. As with many
memoirs, the author takes you through his father's likes, dislikes,
habits, friends --- all the "stuff " that makes up a life. But it
goes beyond the expected; in the pages of this book you will find a
puzzle, but at no one time are you ever in possession of all the
pieces. The story is somewhat entertaining (although it borders on
confusing), and in a few places can be rather disturbing ---
especially considering that this is a memoir, not fiction. The
naked lady is real, Rips's journey is real, and THE FACE OF A NAKED
LADY takes you off the beaten path to find the truth behind Nic
Rips.

Although exploring a father's secret life is a good idea, the story
tends to get bogged down in seemingly insignificant details and
peripheral characters. The book is full of people who might seem
interesting if you knew them personally, but as an outsider I felt
like I was at a family reunion and was trapped in the corner making
conversation with distant relatives --- interesting strangers, but
strangers nonetheless. Despite this excess, the book is enjoyable
and entertaining.

Once you get beyond the teases that peak your interest but are
unexplained, you're left with a fond recollection of Nic's life,
and even begin to understand why Michael has taken you down this
winding small town road. He brings the story of his father full
circle and leaves the reader feeling an appreciation and admiration
for an interesting man and the compassion he shows to a nameless
face --- the face of the naked lady.

Reviewed by J. McAfee (Jill@lehualani.com) on January 21, 2011

The Face of a Naked Lady: An Omaha Family Mystery
by Michael Rips

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618273522
  • ISBN-13: 9780618273522